Synesthetic Textophobia

Posted on: April 30, 2019
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4 scrolls Brocade, various textiles, Chinese embroidery Synesthetic: From synesthesia, a condition when one stimulus causes the sensation of another sensation of a different modality. For example, a particular sound that is heard creates the visualization of a specific color. Textophobia: A fear of certain fabrics. Synesthetic Textophobia draws from my aversion to certain fabrics because of the people they have represented to me. Because certain fabrics have specific associations--class, wealth, vocation, heritage, etc.--I have come to identify specific fabrics with very specific people or kinds of people. In this set of works, I have embroidered text and phrases I have heard from the people or social groups with whom I associate specific fabrics that I have a strong (sometimes involuntary and very physical) aversion to. These were each sewn into a white fabric scroll representing the narrative that is the fabric of my own life, a reference to traditional Chinese narrative scroll paintings. The number four being a homophone for ?death? in Chinese, these scrolls are hung as a group of four as these messages have attempted to destroy my sense of self-worth and belonging over the years.

Other Projects by Evelyn Wong

Evelyn Wong

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MFA Student

Major: Sculpture

Graduation Year: 2019

Artist Statement:

What is our responsibility in dismantling the power structures and disrupting the social practices that uphold toxic attitudes, and how do we heal the communities and victims that have been subjected to and oppressed by them?  

Studies by the American Psychological Association show that Asian American women have one of the highest rates of chronic depression and suicide ideation.  While the causes of this vary widely, online communities for Asian-American women reveal that among the causes is the oppressive and patriarchal nature of filial piety.  Imposed on many of us from an early age, filial piety involves complete subservience to one’s elders and to the males of the family.  Its historical intent was to create a social structure that established familial harmony and respect, but it is often exercised in the form of restrictive treatments towards daughters who are verbally and physically abused, given unrealistically high standards of performance, and psychologically manipulated into fear and submission.  The glorification of daughters’ virtuousness and chastity meant that they are also frequently isolated from peers and forbidden from social activities--their bodies commodified as vessels of procreation and objects for the male gaze.  Mental health problems are seen as a weakness of virtue and nature, and family members often deny that their daughters’ mental health is at risk for fear of bringing shame and dishonor to the family name.

Oppressed by their own families and afraid to speak out, these women experience invisibility in society and lack support for mental health care, even though generations of such practices have led to developmental trauma for many.  My work examines the cultural narratives of, and resulting from, these toxic cultural beliefs from a historical and contemporary perspective, relating them to narratives outside of the Asian and Asian-American communities as a way to bring empathy in order to change these kinds of practices.